We’ve saved the hosts for last. Normally I’d do that just because they hosted the tournament, but in this case I left the Nashville Predators for the last because, as a whole, their group of prospects impressed me the most. From the 4-on-3 unit of Kevin Fiala, Filip Forsberg, Brendan Leipsic, and Miikka Salomaki to Magnus Hellberg denying a Vince Trocheck breakaway, I saw something that I liked everywhere I turned.
Most NHL Ready: Colton Sissons*
I’m choosing Sissons with the disclaimer that Filip Forsberg seemed so obvious a choice that it didn’t even need to be stated. Forsberg should, and likely will, be in the NHL. End of. Sissons, though – I was glad to see him get a shot in the games he did last season, but I wasn’t entirely convinced he was ready to be up full time. After seeing him last Sunday, I am. Sissons wore the “C” for Nashville, and seemed in control even as he charged into every situation he could. He scored a goal in the second period (assisted by – who else? – Forsberg), and had few moments where I thought he might get another. For a team like Nashville that historically has been low-scoring, a guy who throws himself into offensive situations and still plays physically can’t hurt.
Biggest Surprise: Brendan Leipsic
He really shouldn’t have surprised me. I liked what I saw from Leipsic at the 2013 development camp, and what I saw in his games with Portland. But I wasn’t sure he’d be able to keep playing his game against non-major-junior opponents. I clearly shouldn’t have worried. Leipsic was all over the ice and in everyone’s faces, starting a few scrums after the whistles and getting into a tussle with Florida’s Cody Hodges. Leipsic is a pest in the way Brendan Gallagher and Andrew Shaw are. If he can keep putting up points while getting under the skin of the other team (and occasionally drinking out of the opposing goalie’s water bottle), he’ll be an asset to the Predators for a nice long while.
- Every group had a guy with a bomb of a shot. To me, Nashville’s was Viktor Arvidsson. He won’t be putting any pucks through any boards, unlike his captain, but he can really blast it.
- At one point I caught Filip Forsberg trying to kick the puck to his stick. He didn’t quite make it, but he got close.
- Nashville’s first rounder from this year, Kevin Fiala, is incredibly skilled. I don’t think he’s quite NHL ready, but he doesn’t look incredibly far off.
- Justin Kirkland tried to hip check a Panther late in the first period and ended up throwing himself into the boards. Might wanna work on that, kid.